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Mars Hill Lives Up to Its Name – Good News

October 24, 2011

As we have said previously, Mars Hill (Areopagus) was a place of heated discussion and a platform where the greatest issues of Greek society were discussed and, potentially, resolved.

I am delighted to report that Mars Hill Church in Seattle and the Mars Hill churches here in Sacramento have come to  a great resolution of their Name dilemma.

You can read Pastor Scott Hagan’s response to the phone calls he received from Mars Hill Seattle on his blog: www.scotthagan.net. Here are some highlights of that letter:

The issue of the Cease and Desist Letter seemed to strike a raw nerve in the broader body of Christ.  I will say more about that in a moment.  But first, I want to confirm that three staff members from Mars Hill Seattle called and asked forgiveness for any stress and confusion that was caused by the letter we received from theStokes & Lawrence law firm.  That meant a great deal to me and the other pastors involved (Jason Yarbrough of Mars Hill Church in Fairfield and James Seiler of Mars Hill Church in Galt).  Both Chris Pledger and Dave Bruskas were clear and sincere that the proper step should have been to call us first.  We accepted their apology and would like the Mars Hill Seattle congregation to know that your leaders took this step (We are assuming on behalf of Pastor Mark Driscoll).  They assured us they would not seek any type of legal action, even though they did apply for and were awarded a federal trademark in August of this year for both the name and the logo design.  Mars Hill Seattle also posted on their blog late saturday night a message of clarity and grace.  It was greatly appreciated.

Our concerned stemmed from a letter we received from Stokes & Lawrence asking that we cease all use of our name, domain names and all artwork. The letter stated we had a two-week window for compliance.  It was very unsettling knowing that, if enforced by a court (which it appears it could), it would cost our ministry and our two satellite plants thousands of dollars to rebrand, redesign, reprint and re-educate our regions of the changes……

Plans for our church here in Sacramento began in 2005. At the time we planted this work, I had never heard of Mars Hill Seattle or Pastor Mark Driscoll.  I was aware of the Michigan Mars Hill Church (I pastored in Grand Rapids from 2001 to 2005)  and also the college located in Mars Hill, North Carolina.  By choosing that name, I was not out to emulate anyone, I simply thought it to be a great name for a church……

My first knowledge of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle happened sometime in 2007, nearly two years after the planning and launch of our church.  Our logo was designed in 2005 by Scott Taylor, the husband of our worship pastor, Darnisha Taylor.  He reassured me a few days ago that, when he designed the logo, he also had never heard of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  Scott Taylor’s design is completely coincidental.  As a matter of fact, our original design was a square with the shaded circle and ‘M’ inside the square……

The letter from Stokes & Lawrence instructed us to contact their law office (not the church) with a response. I sent an email, of behalf of all three of us as pastors very early on Wednesday morning, October 19th to Leslie Ruiter of Stokes & Lawrence.  I asked if she would pass our cell phone numbers on to Pastor Mark Driscoll, as we felt this should be a pastor to pastor conversation and not something involving a secular lawyer.  By noon the same day (October 19th) we received an email from Leslie Ruiter:

Sent from my iPhone

On Oct 19, 2011, at 1:06 PM, Leslie Ruiter <Leslie.Ruiter@stokeslaw.com> wrote:

Dear Pastor Hagan and team: Thank you for your response. I am completely on board with an organization-to-organization conversation, without me (the trademark lawyer) in the middle. Mars Hill’s goals, and I assume yours as well, would be to gain an understanding of the situation and reach an amicable resolution that causes no harm to either. I will pass on your information below to Chris Pledger at Mars Hill, and he or one or more of the other pastors will be in contact.

Best regards,

Leslie C. Ruiter

By Thursday afternoon we had not heard from the church. With our two week window closing there was growing concern because of the potential financial ramifications.  The same day I received a call from a close pastor friend here in Sacramento, Mike Phillips.  He and I, along with a group of about 8 others, meet weekly as pastors for relationship and prayer.  He is a seasoned leader who pastors Gateway Church here in Sacramento. I had shared with them on Monday what was happening and asked for their guidance, prayer and counsel.  These are Baptist, Charismatic, Non-Denominational and Reformed guys with various backgrounds.  It’s a great cross section of friends who are church planters in the area. Mike told me he knew of some people that currently attend Mars Hill Seattle and asked for my permission to contact them to see if they had heard anything about this publicly. He also asked to blog about it to see if any other churches had received the same communication.  I gave him my blessing, but I did not read or proof Mike’s blog before it was posted.  Mike’s blog on the same day was a plea on behalf of a friend (me) whom he felt was facing a potentially unjust situation.

I was speaking Friday (October 21st) in Boston when I finally received a very congenial voicemail from Chris Pledger.  By now the social media networks were buzzing with some knowledge about this cease and desist letter.  There was zero antagonism in Chris’ voice or the message he left.  That afternoon we had a conference call between myself, Chris Pledger and Justin Holcomb.  Both of them were great and shared they were very sorry for sending a legal letter first. They communicated that their intent now was simply to remove confusion and to ask if we could alter the logo that they had been using since 1996.  I shared our story, including how our design by Scott Taylor in 2005 was totally innocent, and that when our church was planted in 2005 we had no knowledge that a Mars Hill Church in Seattle existed.

I agreed to start the process of a logo redesign since they now owned the trademark.  They assured me that even though the letter from Stokes & Lawrencecalled for a name change, that was off the table.  On Saturday, I received a voicemail from Dave Bruskas reiterating the same information and again reaffirming that the letter should not have been sent as a means of first contact.

I want to thank the Mars Hill Seattle staff for demonstrating a genuine brotherhood and passion for the Kingdom of God.  It feels like I’ve made some new leadership friends over the weekend in Dave, Justin and Chris.  I also want to say from the bottom of my heart that I am honestly sorry for any part I may have played in fueling the fires of disunity.  My emotions ran high, and in hindsight I should have tried to call the church office directly instead of communicating only with the lawyer as I was instructed to in the original letter.  I could have demonstrated more patience as a leader and for that I am sorry. Would the leadership of Mars Hill have ever called me ( Remember, I had given them our numbers via the lawyer) had there not been such an intense social media backlash last thursday?  All I can say is that the three men who did call me sounded more than legit, so I will choose to believe they would have and enjoy living reconciled instead of suspicious.  I look froward to meeting with Chris, Dave and Justin someday.  Justin even mentioned that he is from an Assemblies of God church.

We all know that social media is a powerful thing, and last Thursday’s plethora of posts, reposts and comments proved that once again.

Scott has some more great things to say and I advise you to go there and read it.

My final word is this: This is how the Body of Christ is supposed to work. I applaud both Mars Hill churches for living up to their historical, biblical context. May God’s blessings rest on all of you. Now I go back to my 100 readers a day instead of 45,000.

Mike P.

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7 comments

  1. […] Friday Mars Hill Seattle leaders opened a dialogue with Mars Hill Sacramento and it appears they have come to an agreeable resolution. So what is the post mortem on this public relations event? What can we learn from […]


    • Vince: Thank you so much for getting the word out via your blog and Twitter especially. You probably had more to do with the worldwide pressure put on to resolve this than I did. Once again, thank you.


      • I appreciate the level playing field that the web provides.

        In that light I cannot recommend Clay Shirky’s book – ‘Cognitive Surplus’ enough for pastors and leaders (not a church book).


  2. Vince: Is that the same guy who wrote “Here Comes Everybody”? I love that book.


  3. I had no idea. It is an unfortunate situation. Thanks for sharing everything.

    Again, thanks.


  4. […] surrounding its identity with the larger Mars Hill church in Seattle. (These events are reported here, here and […]


  5. […] surrounding its identity with the larger Mars Hill church in Seattle. (These events are reported here, here and […]



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